The need for food pantries on college campuses has been growing over the years as the cost of tuition, housing and books increases more quickly than the amount of money college students earn. Some campuses have them, but up until now, those pantries have been created by the schools or the students.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to change that at the state's public colleges, both at the State University of New York's (SUNY) 64 campuses and the 24 campuses of New York City's City University of New York (CUNY). In his recently proposed No Student Goes Hungry Program, the governor addresses food insecurity for all students, from kindergarten through college.

I appreciate everything about the governor's proposed plan. It recognizes the link between nutrition and education. Students who don't get enough to eat often have trouble focusing and have lower grades and more absenteeism, often leading to students repeating a grade. The plan gives a real financial incentive to schools to increase the offering of locally sourced foods. The inclusion of these foods will add nutrients, not just calories, to school lunches.

It recognizes the needs of state college students, too, many of whom go hungry to afford an education. And, so importantly, the plan includes respect for all students, from grade school kids who feel less-than because their families need help paying for the foods they need, to college students who can get food assistance when needed without embarrassment.

This is Cuomo's plan:

Kids at a lunch table in Virginia. Needy students from kindergarten through college would benefit from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal. (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture/flickr)

1. Ban lunch shaming statewide: Denying children who can't pay for lunch, throwing out lunches that are in their hands when they can't pay, singling them out with stickers or bracelets, humiliating them for their lack of money, or giving them smaller, less nutritious lunches ... these are all ways that students whose families don't have the money to pay for lunch are treated in some school districts. Cuomo plans to propose a law this year that will prohibit publicly humiliating children who can't afford lunch and ban the practice of serving them alternative lunches.

2. Require breakfast after the bell: Many schools now offer breakfast for students with needs. But that breakfast is offered before school and busses don't arrive in time for kids to eat. In the governor's proposal, schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for lunch assistance will provide breakfast even if they arrive at school after the school day officially starts.

3. Expand the Farm to School program: Cuomo wants to double the state's investment in the existing Farm to School program to get healthy, local, New York foods in school districts across the state. This funding "connects schools with local farmers and offers technical assistance and capacity in the school to source products locally to help schools provide students with nutritious meals from food produced by local farms."

4. Increase the use of farm-fresh, locally grown foods at school: This proposal helps students and farmers.The proposal would increase the reimbursement that schools get for each lunch if they purchase at least 30 percent of ingredients from New York farms. The reimbursement would go up from 5.9 cents to 25 cents per meal.

5. Require food pantries on all SUNY and CUNY campuses: Responding to a report done by national campuses that found 48 percent of students said they had experienced food insecurity within the past 30 days, and that students with food insecurity also had trouble buying textbooks, the governor proposes that state colleges provide physical food pantries or other ways that enable students to receive food that is stigma-free.

Some of these proposals may make it into law, some may not. New York residents can contact their state representatives to ask them to support the No Student Goes Hungry Program to help alleviate student food insecurity.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

How New York aims to help hungry students
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 'No Student Goes Hungry Program' aims to provide healthy, locally sourced meals to all students, K-through-college, who need them.